- Available for £15,000
- 2.0 inline four petrol turbo, four-wheel drive
- Ridiculously good traction, handling and performance
- Some issues with the chassis tech
- Cabin materials not really luxurious
- Tough if maintained, potentially troublesome if not
What happens when you take an ordinary four-door saloon and pack it out with a powerful motor and four-wheel drive? A few manufacturers have gone down this road and discovered a pot of gold at the end of it in terms of road car sales and competition results. Mitsubishi took up the idea in 1992 and ran with it for nearly a quarter of a century in its Lancer Evolution series.
Homologation restrictions prevented Evos from being officially sold in the UK until 2000, when 250 or so Evolution VIs arrived here at £32,995 a pop, or over £50k in 2021 money. They came with added UK market-essential features like extra corrosion and theft protection and mph instrumentation. Thanks to the Evos that had gone before, the VIs also arrived with a ready-made reputation for extreme point-to-point speed and a willingness to take abuse.
As you'd expect from a car with the Evolution name, successive models had gained both power and ability with each new iteration. The VIII of 2003 was especially significant. It introduced the Evo sub-brand into the US market and kicked off two high-performance sub-brands: MR (Mitsubishi Racing) and, in the UK, the legendary FQ cars. The 405hp MR FQ-400 Evo VIII that was sold through Ralliart UK was a proper piece of kit, packed with serious engine and transmission mods that gave it the capability of blitzing the 0-60 run in 3.5sec, running on to 175mph, and duffing up some big-name supercars on the track.
When the tenth-generation X was presented for test drives in 2007 for release to the market in 2008, the boots it had to fill were huge. The X stayed true to the turbocharged four-cylinder format established 15 years earlier, but the X's 4B11T engine was new with an aluminium block in place of the old cast iron one, chopping 12kg out of the weight. It sat 10 per cent lower than the IX's engine and was a 'square' 86mm bore and stroke design as opposed to the longer 88mm stroke of its 4G63 predecessor. It had a chain rather than a belt for the timing. A six-speed TC-SST dual-clutch transmission option with paddle shift was new too, as was the X's close ratio five-speed manual gearbox.
The X was around 140kg heavier than the IX (9) it replaced, but from a driving perspective the battery of electronic drivetrain controls went a long way towards compensating for that extra weight. Gathered under the S-AWC (Super All-Wheel Control) umbrella were Active Yaw Control, an active centre differential and more, on top of all the usual stability and anti-lock braking controls.
Power outputs varied according to the market. Even the weediest X had 300hp. The Mitsubishi UK-tweaked FQ-badged models began with that 300hp unit in the FQ-300 and progressed through three more power offerings - first the FQ-330 and 360, and later the 400 and the big daddy limited-run FQ-440 MR, offering 330, 360, 405 and 440hp respectively. On top of that there was an absolute raft of tech and handling packages available to create a bunch of sub-models within the X range. Add in the importation of cars from Japan and you might begin to wonder if you'd ever find two Xs the same. Covering them all off would take up too much space and would undoubtedly result in a load of mistakes, so in this guide we're going to concentrate on common problems rather than all the spec nuances.
In spring 2014 Mitsubishi announced that production of Evos would finish after the 2015 model year and that they would be concentrating on electric propulsion from that point. Boo. Luckily, higher-mileage (but still under 100k) UK-supplied Evo Xs can start from under £15,000, and we saw a really nice looking privately-owned FQ300 with 69,000 miles on it for £15,900. That seems like excellent value for such a capable car. Not only is it a quick thing with barnacle-standard grip, let's not forget that it's also a decent four-seater with a good-sized boot. If you look around hard enough you might even be able to find a wagonised version.
But is the last Evo robust enough to deliver a trouble-free ownership experience? Let's buckle up and give it the beans as we delve into the growly world of the X.
SPECIFICATION | MITSUBISHI LANCER EVO X (2009-on)
Engine: 1,998cc inline four 16v turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual or 6-speed DCT, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 300@6,500rpm (405hp)
Torque (lb ft): 300@3,500rpm (387@4,500rpm)
0-62mph (secs): 4.7 (DCT) (3.8)
Top speed (mph): 155
Weight (kg): 1,540 (1,560)
Wheels (in): 18
On sale: 2008
Price now: from £15,000
(Comparison figures in brackets for X FQ-400)
Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it's wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
In FQ-300 form the 'straight' 300hp Evo X might have felt a trifle underwhelming to anyone used to boosted-up versions of the previous Evos. Its power delivery was smooth and the overqualified chassis absolutely laughed at it, but if you kept the engine spinning in the meatiest part of its range (3,000-5,000rpm) you could make very rapid progress indeed. The MIVEC variable valve timing works especially well with more heavily boosted models like the FQ-360.
Few 2.0 inline fours would be described as musical (unless you classify grunge as music), and the Evo lump is no exception. However, there's always been a really impressive feeling of solidity about Evo engines that makes you think they'll take a beasting and keep on coming back for more.
They're not faultless though. Non-upgraded fuel pump relays can lead to the engine running lean. Preventative replacement of that is a no-brainer at £20 or so. The clip-free vacuum return hose to the fuel pressure regulator is known for popping off. This is often mis-diagnosed as MAF failure. A cable tie mends it. Turning hard and/or fast on a less than full tank, to the left in particular, could create fuel surge and/or fuel starvation. The ceramic tips of the spark plugs could snap off if the car was running lean. Timing chain stretch could be an issue but keeping on top of the oil changes helped to fend that off. Poorly cast exhaust manifolds could develop hairline cracks. You needed to make sure that your car was up to date on all factory reflashes as there was a lot of computery stuff going on.
In any of its iterations the Evo X is an exceptionally fast car but that hasn't stopped the tuning aftermarket offering a huge range of go-even-faster bits. Bolting loads of shiny parts on undoubtedly ramps up the underbonnet wow factor but some potential buyers might be put off by too much in the way of modification. Many might only want bog-stock cars on the basis that the factory knows best. It's a balance that owners need to strike when they come to sell (and when you come to buy). In passing, fully atmospheric blowoff valves are not a good idea on cars running high boost.
The default X transmission was a rufty-tufty five-speed manual. Some thought that it needed an extra cog, but you only got that if you specified the Evo-first option of the six-speed SST dual-clutch auto, which besides the extra gear also had a very nice shift action. By definition these cars were used hard, and the Borg Warner SST gearbox could develop faults. Premature clutch wear evidenced by excessive slipping when cold could mean a replacement box, hopefully under warranty as this could happen with fewer than 20,000 miles on the clock.
Once you were up to FQ-360 level, the manual box was the only choice. It wasn't a bad choice either, with well-judged ratios and a beefy 'go on then, come at me' feel, but even-numbered gears disappearing entirely along with reverse could spoil your day. This would usually be a selector fork problem. For under £400 or so you could get a billet aluminium upgrade that replaced the dodgy plastic magnet on the centre gear selector fork arm.
The aftermarket was worth looking at for a stronger clutch if your Evo X was developing meaningful power. A new OE item was around £1,200. The stock clutch master cylinder became famous for failing. They're about £350 apiece. Diff pins are often mentioned in forums as one of the items careful owners replace as a precaution.
You should be able to hit mpg numbers in the high 20s, but that would be missing the point of an Evo which is that you should be caning it everywhere. Drive it like that and you will be regularly seeing single-figure consumption readouts. Expect around 22mpg overall from an FQ-360 and you won't be far off. Combine that with a small (14.5 gallon) petrol tank and you can easily see yourself spending a lot of time holding nozzles.
Unlike earlier Evos, which were a bit more demanding, the service intervals on an X are reasonably far apart at 10,000 miles, once you've done the first oil change at 1,000 miles. The oil is expensive but servicing packages were part of the new car purchase, and insurance costs might not be as dear as you would think.
In simple terms the Evo X's suspension was MacPherson struts at the front and a multilink rear, but that was only the start of its chassis wizardry. The S-AWC (Super All-Wheel Control) computer at the heart of it all responded to feedback from various sensors for engine and wheel speed, throttle input, cornering force and steering angle to continually optimise the drivetrain for road conditions.
There were three traction modes - Tarmac, Gravel and Snow. Behind that simple sounding menu was a fiendish mix of electronics and machinery to make it all happen. For a start there was ASC (Anti Slip Control) which applied braking and/or power cuts to the unloaded wheels. This could be disabled partially, to cut traction and stability control while retaining wheel braking, or fully by a long button push to cut all interference and set up the potential for four-wheel drifting. Then it had AYC (Active Yaw Control) operating through the torque vectoring limited slip rear differential. This was designed to reduce understeer by sending more power to the loaded outside wheel. The X also had Mitsubishi's Active Centre Differential (ACD), first seen on the Evo VII. This split torque by up to 50/50 front/rear via an electronically controlled hydraulic multiplate clutch.
Unfortunately, the ACD/AYC pump (which was located in a more vulnerable spot than in previous Evos) could fail due to corrosion to the housing and gasket. Mitsubishi acknowledged this was a problem and the company extended the warranty on it to 10 years/100,000 miles in the US, but it was left at 5 years in the UK. 33 of the nearly 1,900 buyers of British Evo Xs and Lancer Ralliarts had the pump replaced under warranty, but at least one British owner was faced with a £3,500 bill for a new OE pump on an out-of-warranty car.
Depending on your style of driving, you might not notice a massive difference in the way the car handles with a busted pump but obviously you'd want it to be right. Although OE replacement pumps weren't cheap, some owners said they found non-OE ones at under £1,500. The average UK price for a new old-stock unit seems to be running at around £2,200-£2,400 now but there are specialists who will refurbish them for a lot less than that (around £500).
As an aside, the ACD clutch pack sat in gear oil in the transfer case, whereas the two AYC clutch packs sat in the rear diff in automatic transmission fluid. Both fluids should be changed every 30,000 miles, or every 15,000 if you're a heavy-duty user.
On other chassis matters, Evo X track widths were 30mm up on the IX's and the X body was almost 40 percent stiffer. The steering was accurate, the turn-in neutral, the traction mind-boggling and the handling coolly brilliant in a Jeevesian 'you rang?' sort of way. Factory wheel alignment wasn't always great though. Resetting the geometry should be between £100-£150.
If you did get yourself into a pickle in an X, which in all honesty wasn't that easy, the 350mm Brembo ventilated brakes would do a good job of hauling you down to safety. A new set of discs and pads will be around £1,000. Many of the early Xs did a lot of sitting around before they were sold and that could generate bad corrosion in the discs.
Tyres should last for between 10 and 15,000 miles. Standard wheels could suffer from heavy corrosion and standard dampers could knock, especially in the nearside front (left) for some reason. Some owners have had to have multiple suspension rebuilds.
All Evo Xs had bonnets, wings and roofs made from aluminium, but the paint quality and the rustproofing generally weren't that brilliant so protection and undersealing should be on your radar if you do a lot of driving in salty conditions. All Xs had that big rear wing too. This enhanced the car's aero performance but only at the expense of poor rear vision. Still, you had adaptive bi-xenon headlamps at the other end so at least you could see where you were going if not where you'd been.
The X's repositioned front numberplate freed up the flow of air to the rad and intercooler and the battery was moved to the boot for optimised front/rear balance. Fitting mudflaps is considered to be a very good idea as the corners of the back doors and the side skirts are extremely vulnerable to stone damage. Even flaps won't always save your bodywork but you can do a belt and braces job by applying some clear protection film to the danger areas.
Evo cabins are functional rather than luxurious. The plastics are generally hard, leading to scratches, and although the interior is pretty well screwed together rattles can often be heard from the dash frame rubbing against a pin below the A pillar. A squirt of grease should fix that.
The X's wheelbase was 25mm longer than the IX's, enhancing its family credentials, but if you're looking to buy and you're not conventionally sized make sure that you'll be able to get comfy behind the wheel before you do anything else because there's not that much adjustment to play with. Recaro front seats were standard. They were mounted quite high, and the bolstering could be a bit pinchy for more generously proportioned drivers.
Depending on which model you had, the 30gb Rockford Fosgate music server and nav system could come with a boot subwoofer and thereby generate banging levels of volume.
Mitsubishi UK's plan with the Evo X was to wean buyers away from the obvious German performance saloons and coupes. That may have been overthinking it. Sales strategies are normal, but the massive reputation built up by the Evolutions over the years meant that the X would probably have sold in the same numbers with no marketing effort at all. Evo followers would always follow.
One of the biggest problems with the Evo X is that when you factor in all the spec-twiddling that Mitsubishi did to the car in all its different markets around the world you end up with a lot of variants to choose from. Of the easily recognisable UK models, which one is best? More than one respected pundit has attached their flag to the FQ-360, on the basis that a 4.1sec time for the 0-62mph is more than adequate, the power delivery is nicely linear and it feels noticeably quicker than the 300hp car. Quick enough to add an element of adjustability to the normally imperturbable chassis.
The list of actual problems that we've described here might seem long but it's shorter than it might have been if this guide had been on earlier Evo models, with the possible exception of the IX. Don't let things play on your mind too much. As you'll be buying secondhand it's very likely most if not all of the common problems will have been sorted out by previous owners. Forensic scrutiny of the service paperwork will be time well spent. Overall the Evo X should be very reliable so long as whatever punishment you dish out to it is mirrored by an appropriately high degree of care.
Remember too that, although it is primarily seen as a high performance vehicle, underneath all the shoutiness there is an extremely accomplished 4WD vehicle that, when driven in a sober fashion and with the right tyres, will see you through the worst of the weather. If you're keen on keeping it or on maintaining decent resale values, do look at bodywork protection.
There's a small number of Xs on PH classifieds. Here's an Orient Red 88,000-mile FQ300 from 2010. With the SST twin-clutch gearbox, an aftermarket exhaust and a recent timing chain it looks like good value at £14,750.
For £18,500 you could have this 2008 FQ-360 with 76,000 miles. You'll need to sort out the blown ATC pump though so add at least £500 to the budget for that.
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